Health In Focus: Epidural Steroid Injections for Back Pain

Everyone will have back pain at some point in their lives, but not all can be cured with a couple days of rest.

Dr. Jay Jagannathan, with Jagannathan Neurosurgery, says a simple procedure can help a lot of people find relief from their pain for a few days or even years.

Epidural steroid injections can help relieve neck, arm, back, and leg pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves due to spinal stenosis or disc herniation.

Jagannathan says this procedure can have a few benefits.

“The advantage of steroid injections is that they are fairly quick, out-patient procedures usually,” he says. “The procedure itself can take anywhere from five to about 15 minutes to do.”

Sometimes patients are sedated for epidural steroid injections if they are afraid of needles. The injection is made at the epidural space, a fat-filled area between the bone and spinal nerves.

“Usually what we do is we use x-ray guidance to find the area that is affected, and with that x-ray guidance, we insert the needle and inject some contrast often times to ensure it is in the right spot,” Jagannathan says. “And then you inject the medication, the medication is usually a steroid medication which is meant to reduce inflammation along with an anesthetic meant for immediate pain relief.”

Patients that can be candidates for this kind of treatment include people with:

  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Herniated Disks
  • Degenerative Disks
  • Sciatica

“There are older patients or patients who are not candidates for surgery for whom this is the only option to have good relief without having surgery,” Jagannathan says.

But this procedure is not for everyone, and sometimes patients don’t respond well to the injections and need to seek a different kind of treatment.

“The red flags with respect to failure, or it not working, is obviously the pain doesn’t improve,” Jagannathan says. “The other is a presence of neuralgic deficit, so if you start getting weakness bladder symptoms or worsening pain where it becomes difficult to move, that is a red flag that maybe this is not the optimal treatment.  And the third is the length of time and the dose of steroids. We know steroids long time can have cumulative side effects, so if someone is having it extremely frequently in the order of needing it every few months or so, then it might be the indication that it is not the best long term solution.”

For more health information, contact Jagannathan Neurosurgery for neurosurgery, neurology and interventional pain management.

Northern Michigan: 989-701-2538

Upper Peninsula: 906-253-1341

Southeast Michigan: 248-792-6527

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